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Recommended Reading List

     Many people have asked me at workshops, classes and college courses about reading suggestions. Sadly, most popular books on Celtic Spirituality are about 50 to 80 percent inaccurate, and do not reflect the ancient beliefs or culture of the Celts. The majority of these provide information on modern earth religions (such as Wicca, modern witchcraft or modern goddess worship) with a thin Celtic overlay, much of which is not authentic.

     Frequently, these books present the specific spiritual path of the author as if it were the religion of Celtic peoples from the past, and blend Celtic folklore from the last few centuries (which does not necessarily reflect ancient practice) with modern beliefs and viewpoints, Native American practices, modern psychology and (of all things) English folk ritual. Some contain 'druidic' information now known to be the imaginative forgeries and misconceptions of antiquarians. While these works may be inspiring, they represent one individual's very personal and eclectic path (which by definition cannot be lived by another) and do not reflect (or respect) the practices of the Celts.

     If we wanted to study the religion of the Cherokee, and bought a book purporting to set out their beliefs, and then later found out these were not the beliefs of the Cherokee, we would understandably feel upset. We might feel disrespected (not to mention the disrespect such works direct at the Cherokee). Such is the current state of affairs regarding popular works on ancient Celtic religion.

     Just because myth and spirituality are enjoyable, does not mean they are to be taken lightly. Just as we would seek to learn Buddhism or Hindu traditions from a respected specialist, someone who has had serious training in the traditions, the languages and the practices, so should we seek out the work of true specialists in Celtic.

     A great deal of the most important work on Celtic myth and religion is found in academic journals, which are difficult for most readers to obtain or interpret. I have provided this list of books which should be fairly easy to locate on-line (some are in print, some available through used book sources) and which are accessible and reliable. If you do not see a title or author listed, the work is not authentic and probably not recommended (inquire about advanced academic and folklore sources if a title is not seen here).

     Learning about the Celtic tradition is a lifelong path requiring dedication and perseverance, but those efforts will be richly rewarded! Relying on the following works will provide a good, solid foundation for your spiritual quest or practice. I am happy to provide additional references for more advanced work. I hope the list is of assistance to you, and that your quest is fulfilling!

The Ancient Celts

The Ancient Celts Barry Cunliffe
The Celtic World Barry Cunliffe
The Celts T.G.E. Powell
The Pagan Celts Anne Ross
Celts and the Classical World David Rankin
The Celtic Realms Myles Dillon and Nora Chadwick
The Celts edited by Venceslas Kruta
The Celtic World edited by Miranda Green
Celtic Britain Charles Thomas
The Peoples of Scotland ed. Gordon Barclay
The Celts Nora Chadwick
Celtic Britain Nora Chadwick
Celtic Scotland Ian Airmit
The Picts and the Scots Laing
Cattle Lords and Clansmen Nerys Patterson
Iron Age Britain Barry Cunliffe
Celtic Art - Megaw
Pagan Celtic Ireland Barry Raftery
A Guide to Early Irish Law Fergus Kelly

Celtic Mythology and Literature

Celtic Mythology Proinsius MacCana
Celtic Heritage Alwyn and Brinley Rees
Ancient Irish Tales Cross and Slover
The Mabinogi and other Medieval Welsh Tales Patrick K. Ford
The Mabinogi Proinsius MacCana
The Tain Thomas Kinsella
Tales of the Elders of Ireland Ann Dooley and Harry Roe
Early Irish Literature Myles Dillon
The Cycles of the Kings Myles Dillon
A Guide to Welsh Literature edited A.O.H. Jarman and Gwilym R. Hughes
The Irish Literary Tradition J.E.Caerwyn Williams and Patrick K. Ford
Aspects of the Tain edited J.P. Mallory
The Celtic Poets Songs and Tales from Early Ireland and Wales P.K. Ford
Early Irish Literature Knott and Murphy
The Mabinogion Gwyn and Thomas Jones
Cath Maige Tuired ed. Elizabeth Gray
Metrical Dindshenchas Gwynn
Celtic Heroic Age Koch and Carey
The Welsh Triads Rachel Bromwich
Studies in Early Celtic Nature Poetry Jackson
A Celtic Miscellany Jackson

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Celtic Religion

Pagan Celtic Britain Anne Ross
The Druids Stuart Piggott
The Druids Anne Ross
The World of the Druids Miranda Green
Animals in Celtic Life and Myth Miranda Green
A Guide to Ogam Damian MacManus
Celtic Goddesses Miranda Green
Roman Britain Stanley Ireland
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe H.E. Davidson
Queen of the Night: Rediscovering the Celtic Moon Goddess S. MacLeod NicMhacha
Myth, Cosmos and Society Bruce Lincoln
In Search of the Indo-Europeans Mallory
Comparative Mythology Puhvel
Dictionary of Celtic Mythology MacKillop
Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend Miranda Green
(Also watch for works by Juliette Wood)

Arthurian Legends and Origins

The Development of Arthurian Romance Loomis
Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature O.J. Padel
The Romance of Arthur edited by Wilhelm
The Arthur of the Welsh Bromwich and Jarman
Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend Coe and Young
Arthur's Britain Leslie Alcock
King Arthur Richard Barber

     (Remember that only the Arthurian sources prior to Geoffrey of Monmouth really reflect Celtic beliefs and mythology; interpretation of later sources as sources of spiritual beliefs is not a fruitful practice, as after Geoffrey of Monmouth the core of early belief was mixed with anything that 'makes a good story' and was used as fodder for upper-class courtly medieval story-telling, the storytellers adding and changing as they desired).

Celtic Folklore, Folktales, Fairy Traditions

The Year in Ireland Kevin Danaher
The Silver Bough Marion McNeill (ignore theories about sun worship)
Folklore of the Scottish Highlands Anne Ross
Welsh Folk Customs Trefor Owen
The Banshee Patricia Lysaght
The Holy Wells of Ireland Patrick Logan
Folktales of Ireland ed. Sean O'Sullivan
Irish Folktales ed. Henry Glassie
Popular Tales of the West Highlands Campbell
Scottish Traditional Tales ed. Bruford and MacDonald
Handbook of the Scottish Gaelic World Michael Newton
Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland W.B. Yeats
Penguin Book of Scottish Folktales ed. Neil Philip
The Good People ed. Narvaez
Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland Lady Gregory
Scottish Fairy Belief Lizanne Henderson and Edward Cowan
The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries Evans-Wentz (pp. 1-225 ONLY)
Encyclopedia of Fairies Katharine Briggs (has some Celtic information)
The Fairies in Tradition and Literature K.M. Briggs (has some Celtic info)


The Way of the Shaman Michael Harner
Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy Mircea Eliade
Dreamtime and Inner Space Holger Kalweit
Shamans, Healers and Medicine Men Holger Kalweit
Soul Retrieval Sandra Ingerman
The Fruitful Darkness Joan Halifax
The Sacred and the Profane Mircea Eliade
The Myth of the Eternal Return Mircea Eliade
Rites and Patterns of Initiation Mircea Eliade

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     Currently no reliable guide to Celtic shamanic practices is available. There are several books published on the subject, parts of which do have merit (but would require a thorough knowledge of shamanism and Celtic studies to pick through). These generally fall prey to the pitfalls mentioned in the introductory notes. See Chapter Three of 'Queen of the Night' for an introduction to some of the applicable concepts. Watch this site for updates; I do hope to publish a book on Celtic Shamanism in the future (as well as a reliable overview of ancient Celtic religion, beliefs and traditions).

My deepest respect to the Gods, the Ancestors and the Spirits of the Land

May our studies be guided by your wisdom and integrity

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